Tag Archives: Arminian

Picking a lane on election and predestination

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Note: While I’m unapologetic about holding to Reformed theology, I’m not evangelical about it. I share the gospel without mentioning it, and gladly fellowship with authentic Christians who hold other views. However, I don’t appreciate the ignorance and arrogance of those who condemn those who believe Reformed theology.

If God didn’t choose to save some particular sinners destined for Hell, then it is because He couldn’t save them, or He wouldn’t save them.

Reconciling God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility is important to think through for orthodox Christians – whether Reformed, Arminian, Molinist, or whatever you like to call yourself (i.e., anyone who agrees that God knew before creation began who would ultimately choose to repent and believe, and that open theism is false because God is omniscient and not learning as He goes). But I see too many people making the task unnecessarily difficult because they forget that our default destination is Hell. They unwittingly create a straw-man situation where God owes an opportunity for salvation to everyone. But then it wouldn’t be mercy and grace; it would be justice.

In other words, aside from Adam and Eve, who could have chosen otherwise but ultimately needed a Savior because of their choices, everyone else was initially destined for Hell. (For simplicity, I’m leaving out any miscarriage and age of accountability scenarios, however one fleshes those out).

So absent God’s mercy and grace, everyone would end up in Hell. People overcomplicate this to try to get God off the hook for eternal damnation. But it is they who put him on the hook. Everyone deserves to go there, but by God’s mercy and grace, He elects and predestines to save some. So humans are always the cause of them not being saved, not God.

I’ve yet to see someone with orthodox Christian beliefs come up with any alternative besides these reasons for why people end up in Hell:

  1. God didn’t elect them (Reformed)
  2. God couldn’t persuade them (Arminian or Molinism)
  3. God wouldn’t persuade them (Arminian or Molinism)

Even if you hold the view that God “looked down the corridor of time” and elected and predestined those who would choose him of their own “free will,” you are still left with those choices for the remainder.

Option 2 means that nothing God could have done would have convinced you to repent and believe.  It wouldn’t have mattered if He sovereignly put a stellar apologist next door to you and gave you lots of encounters with solid Christians (i.e., good experiences with Christianity and complete access to the facts and logic behind the faith). That sounds like Reformed theology to me, as it means that God created these people knowing that nothing would persuade them to believe. In his foreknowledge, He elected not to make them spiritually alive (a la John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”). They allegedly could choose him freely, but He was powerless to convince them.

Option 3 means that God could have persuaded them but elected not to. Again, that sounds Reformed to me.

I’ve heard of people trying to use Molinism (the concept of middle knowledge, where God knows every possible scenario that could have happened) to get around this, saying that God picked the universe where the most people would choose him. But that means that some would go to Hell in this universe but wouldn’t have in another universe, so God chose them to go to Hell. So they unwittingly end up with the same (false) scenario they are trying to explain away.

It is more biblical and logical to say that people have “free will” within their given nature. But as you can’t choose to fly like a bird because it isn’t in your nature, you can’t choose Jesus when it isn’t in your spiritually dead nature. But if God makes you spiritually alive (again, John 3:8) then you can and will choose Jesus because it is now in your nature to be able to do so.

If God didn’t choose to save some particular sinners destined for Hell, then it is because He couldn’t save them, or He wouldn’t save them.


Bonus thought: Why would Paul anticipate this argument if he was presenting anything but the Reformed view? Romans 9:19–20 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

The Potter’s Freedom

I rarely post things like this because they can become needlessly divisive.  As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, I saw way more Reformed-bashing and just plain misunderstandings of the Reformed position than I saw in the reverse. I consider it an in-house debate among Christians — albeit an important one — and don’t see any reason for either side to be nasty.  Comments will be closely moderated.

I highly recommend The Potter’s Freedom by James White, which thoroughly addresses Chosen But Free by Norm Geisler (or read both — Geisler has an appendix addressing White and White added an appendix addressing Geisler’s response (or those of his students’ class project of responding)).

If I wasn’t Reformed before reading it I would have been afterwards. I always respected Geisler, other than the Ergun Caner debacle, and still appreciate most of what he has done, but White rips him to shreds in the most polite sort of way.

(For the record, I have been in Arminian churches my entire life and am saturated in the Christian culture of Arminianism. My recent switch doesn’t mean I’m right, but the fact is that I made the switch against significant odds and a desire to see Arminianism proved right. But the Bible verses just don’t support it.)

After noting that I’d love to hear a debate between James White and William Lane Craig, someone responded with this:

Craig doesn’t debate other Christians on secondary issues. He views it as a harmful witness. Plus, White isn’t really qualified to debate Craig. He’s got a suspect degree from a suspect university and always says suspect stuff. You just don’t debate every goof on the internet who wants to debate you.

My response:

Comments like that make me even more Reformed 🙂 . As an Arminian I’d listen to lots of Reformed / Arminian debates and always wonder why they lined up well versed Reformed professionals against Arminian light-weights who mainly trafficked in ad homs and bad exegesis. It just didn’t seem fair. Then I started to think that maybe it was the arguments that were at fault and that that was the best the Arminians could do.

Have you read The Potter’s Freedom? If not, please do, and see if you can do any better than Geisler’s students did in refuting it. (I was embarrassed for Geisler, and I’d been a fan of his for over 15 years). It should be easy, since you insist that he’s just an Internet goof that always says suspect stuff.

P.S. Dawkins will thank you for the excuses Craig gives — he can modify those to use against Craig.

Additional thoughts

“Reformed” and “Arminian” may be overly broad terms.  There are also Molinists, who think that through God’s middle knowledge he selected a world where the most possible people would choose him, and there are many who don’t hold to all 5 points of “Calvinism.”

Having said that, it seems that the logical law of excluded middle would hold that election is either conditional or not conditional, grace is irresistible or not, etc.

Perhaps it is the finance guy / CPA in me, but I don’t get bothered by limited atonement.  There are many arguments to use (really, read the book!), and of course we center on the Bible, but the concept of propitiation (satisfying God’s wrath) alone makes me willing to strongly consider it.  If Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath for everyone’s sins, then there is no wrath left.  Illustrations about them not picking up their gift wouldn’t apply.  The wrath would have already been pored out.

This DVD gives a good overview of the tenets and history of Reformed theology.

Finally, I’ll note that I don’t consider those with opposing views to be non-Christians.

Ever notice how Arminians sometimes act and pray like Calvinists?

I’m not trying to start the whole Calvinism / Arminian debate here, I’m just making an observation.  I’ve known people who oppose Reformed Theology (aka Calvinism), but they talk and pray like Calvinists when it comes to evangelism and salvation.

If you talk about evangelism they are quick to say it is all up to God, and they’ll pray for God to change people’s hearts.  It is a humble sentiment, but it just doesn’t seem to fit in with their Arminian theology.  I wonder if it is an excuse to avoid the hard and risky work of evangelism?  They don’t seem to want God to “woo” people, they seem to want him to really change them — forever.

I lean to Reformed Theology now but caught myself thinking the same way when I leaned towards Arminianism.

Once lost, always lost?

Stan at Winging It brought up an interesting point about the “once saved, always saved” debate.  I’m on the “once really saved, always really saved” side.  I add “really” as a deliberate redundancy to emphasize that the conversion must be authentic.  Countless people can say a few words and hang out in church and not be truly saved (I know, because I used to be one).

Here’s a wrinkle that I liked:

Well, both sides have had various manifestations. On the “conditional security” side, it appeared in most cases like you could certainly lose it if you didn’t remain faithful, but if you lost it, you could get it back again. No problem. Just repent again. Poof! You’re saved again. Rarely did they face the specter of Hebrews 6, although they liked to use the passage as proof against the Calvinists.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt (Heb 6:4-6).

“There, see? If you ‘have fallen away’, then you lose your salvation!” Okay, fine, but note that it says that “it is impossible … to restore them again to repentance”. So if you go with “conditional security”, rather than the “Once Saved, Always Saved” view, you would necessarily need to hold the “Once Lost, Always Lost” position. So some Arminians would concede the point and others would deny it.

So if the “you can lose your salvation” camp wants to cite Hebrews 6 (an admittedly challenging passage to exegete) then they should be consistent and say that once it is lost, it is gone for good.